DISMANTLING CORPORATE RULE
The International Forum on Globalisation has produced a Set of Working Instruments for social movements working on corporate rule". Below is the introduction.
Richard J. Barnet and Ronald E. Mueller, Global Reach (1974)
You know, from your own experience, what it is like to participate in movements where people are engaged in an ongoing struggle for economic, social, and environmental rights. Whether your experience has been with - a labour union, women's group, or environmental association - a civil rights group, farmers organisation, or poor peoples network - a grass roots organisation of workers, peasants, or people of colour - a student's movement, seniors organisation, or a public interest association - a citizen's network, community organisation, or a broad based coalition of labour unions and social organisations - you have been part of a larger movement for democratic social change in your country or region of the world. For the most part, the prime targets for social change have been governments, their policies and their agencies. In one way or another, our social movements have been organised to mobilise constituencies in support of demands for government intervention and regulation of the market in the public interest.
Yet, what happens when we realise that the real power to rule is being exercised not by governments and their agencies but by transnational corporations and banks. Today, 50 of the top 100 economies in the world are TNCs, 70 percent of global trade is controlled by just 500 corporations, and a mere one percent of the TNCs on this planet own half the total stock of foreign direct investment. At the same time, the new free market and free trade regimes (eg. GATT, NAFTA) have created a global environment in which transnational corporations and banks can move - capital, technology, goods, services - freely throughout the world unfettered by the regulations of nation states or democratically elected governments. Through these processes, transnational corporations have effectively secured a system of rule and domination in the new world order.
As social activists, we need to recognise that the world today is no longer effectively ruled by nation states, let alone democratically elected governments. Instead, there has been a massive shift in power - out of the hands of nation states and democratic governments and into the hands of transnational corporations and banks - during the final quarter of the twentieth century. In the new world order, it is the TNCs that effectively govern the lives of people and rule the earth itself. At the same time, sweeping changes are taking place in the role and mandate of democratically elected governments. In democratic societies today, governments no longer have the mandate, let alone the powers and tools, to intervene in the operations of the market and regulate them in the public interest. Instead, the prime role of governments is to reorganise their national economic, social, cultural, and political system for efficient transnational competition and profitable investment.
In effect, we are living in a new age of globalisation which is characterised by forms of corporate tyranny. For, this new world order has been designed to protect the rights and freedoms of transnational capital, not the basic human and democratic rights of people. It is no longer a prime role and responsibility of governments to defend or protect the economic, social, and environmental rights of its citizens. The real power of governance is wielded behind the scenes by an elaborate system of transnational corporations. The operations of governments and their agencies largely serve to cover up these new forms of corporate rule. Today, these realities are further augmented in many countries by right wing political strategies which are designed, not only to carry out a massive downsizing and dismantling of public services, but a fundamental re-invention of the basic roles and responsibilities of governments along with a corresponding redefinition of the rights and freedoms of citizens in a democratic society.
Over the past two decades, citizen groups have waged public campaigns against the operations of TNCs on numerous fronts - ranging from world wide boycotts against Nestles on infant formula and bank loans to South Africa plus the battles over Union Carbide over the Bhopal disaster in India, the repression of Coca Cola workers in Guatemala, the bio-tech contamination of milk products by drug companies like Monsanto, and the clear-cut logging and deforestation by MacMillan Bloedel in Clayquot Sound - to name but a few. Through these and many other corporate campaigns, workers, environmentalists, consumer, church and human rights groups have cultivated important strategic capacities and skills for challenging TNCs. At the same time, a variety of legal and social action centres on corporate issues have been developed with valuable profiles and data on specific TNCs. Today, these resources need to be re-focused and re-tooled for the task of building a broad-based global movement aimed at the new realities of corporate rule.
Indeed, the time has come for social movements to develop a new form of politics in response to the realities of corporate domination in an age of globalisation. This means putting more strategic priority on the task of exposing and dismantling corporate rule. Wherever workers and communities are involved in struggles to gain a measure of control over their economic, social, or ecological future, serious questions of governance need to be raised about the role played by corporations and banks. But here, it is simply not sufficient to make individual corporations more socially responsible (eg. by adopting green labelling practices) or more publicly accountable (eg. public disclosure of information on investments and operations). Nor are the conventional strategies and tactics, employed for many years by various organisations for corporate social responsibility, adequate for tackling today's realities of corporate domination and rule. In short, we can no longer apply a more or less piecemeal approach to what has become a deeply systemic problem.
As we approach the 21st century, it is imperative that social movements in both the North and the South develop a new politics around the task of dismantling the systems of corporate rule that now dominate both humanity and the earth. By a new politics, we are talking about the need to equip our social movements with the capacities to think and act in a more systemic way in order to break the stranglehold of transnational capital over the lives of nations, peoples, and communities. To move in this direction, the International Forum on Globalisation is launching a project to encourage social movements to put strategic priority on the task of Dismantling Corporate Rule. The prime objective of this project is to enable social movement activists to develop their own analysis and strategies for tackling systems of corporate rule in their own countries and regions.
For these reasons, we have prepared a set of working instruments and tools for social movements to use in developing their own analysis and strategies. What follows here is a five step process: (1) defining corporate rule; (2) dissecting corporate rule; (3) denouncing corporate rule; (4) disrupting corporate rule; and (5) dismantling corporate rule. We are calling these instruments the 5-D's. By following this process and using these instruments, we hope that social movement activists will develop their own analysis and strategies for action aimed at dismantling systems of corporate rule in their respective countries and regions. The last section of this document consists of a strategic planning chart which can be used for summarising the data and insights that have emerged from working with the 5-D's.
It is our hope that social movement activists in both the North and the South will make use of this 5-D process over the coming year or so. As a follow up, we intend to convene an international strategic planning conference for movement activists who have been able to make use of these working instruments with their constituencies in developing analyses and strategies for tackling systems of corporate rule in their own countries or regions. The purpose of this event, which may be held in 1997, would be to provide a common forum for activists who are working on issues of corporate rule to share their experiences, deepen their analyses and strategies, and develop capacities and networks for coordinating global campaigns in the future. In effect, the conference would be designed to build upon the work that has been done with the 5-D process.
We, therefore, invite you to join with us in building what could well become a world wide movement for dismantling corporate rule and seizing democratic control over our economic, social, and environmental future in the 21st century. For, we hope this will be an historic, path breaking process for social movements to develop a new form of politics in an age of globalisation.